Scientists protest en masse against Trump

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in the US on Saturday to protest against Trump’s anti-science policies. In Boston alone around 55,000 people warned against ignoring findings on subjects like climate change. John Dyer reports from Boston.

Scientists across America feel that they and their work are under threat from the Trump administration. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets on Earth Day to voice their concerns. (Image credit: Prachatai, flickr/Creative Commons)

When Massachusetts General Hospital sent out a call to join the March for Science in Boston on Saturday, Kristen Kimball jumped.

“We’ll march with MGH to support research funding for people like our own Dr. Lecia Sequist,” said Kimball, referring to her husband’s oncologist.

“My never-smoking spouse has lung cancer,” read Kimball’s sign as she marched on Boston Common, the city’s central park. “Research keeps him breathing!”

Science and facts under threat

She and others from the city’s world-class hospitals, prestigious universities, biotech companies and other institutions were among some 55,000 marchers who participated in the worldwide event that coincided with the 47th anniversary of Earth Day

“Boston is known as an innovative city where science and scientific research are paramount, and the enthusiasm and response to the March for Science have been inspiring,” said Kim Hokanson, co-chair of March for Science Boston.

Growing out of the Women’s March that took place in Washington, DC in January out of widespread anger in the United States about President Donald Trump’s misogynist comments, Marches for Science were held in more than 600 locations around the world. Millions were expected to participate.

Participants said they felt compelled to take action at a time when truth and fact-based thinking were under threat.

Politicians siding against science

“Science didn’t decide to take a side in politics,” said Brown University neuroscientist David Badre, who marched in the state capital of Providence. “Politicians started siding against science.”

Politicians like Trump and Republicans who control Congress were basing policy on conservative, often religious, worldviews rather than evidence, said Badre.

The president, for example, has called climate change a Chinese- perpetrated hoax. He has cited fake news reports as evidence for his beliefs. And he has proposed sharp cuts to federal funding for science and research.

Demonstrations should’ve come sooner

“Science and scientists and evidence-based policies are under attack,” said Caroline Weinberg, national co-chair of the March for Science. “Policymakers threaten our present and future by ignoring scientific evidence when crafting policy, threatening scientific advancement through budget cuts, and limiting the public’s knowledge by silencing scientists.”

Weinberg, a public health researcher, said she regretted not coming up with the idea sooner.

“It’s not about the current administration,” she said. “The truth is we should have been marching for science 30 years ago, 20 years, 10 years ago. “The current political situation took us from kind of ignoring science to blatantly attacking it. And that seems to be galvanising people in a way it never has before. It’s just sort of relentless attacks on science.”

Disagreements over fracking

Some said the Marches simply reflected leftwing views.

Many of the March’s sponsors are well-known left-leaning advocacy groups like NextGen Climate, a group founded by San Francisco billionaire and Democratic Party donor Tom Steyer that advocates for sustainable energy to combat climate change.

NextGen Climate opposes fracking, the process of injecting liquid into the ground to extract previously inaccessible oil and natural gas trapped in rock.

Energy in Depth, an industry-funded group, recently released a report finding that fracking helps cut down air pollution. The report should raise questions in March participants minds, said Energy in Depth Executive Vice President Jeff Eshelman

“Activists who are supposedly ‘marching for science’ this weekend should stop denying the science that clearly shows shale development has led to cleaner air and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Eshelman said.

But independent scientific research has found that fracking releases large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that is more harmful to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Trump has thrown out proposed new rules to curb methane emissions.

No science, no health or security

Many marchers said debates between industry-backed proponents of carbon-based fuels and their rivals exemplified the problem with science in America. The truth must fight against moneyed interests, they said.

Some marchers said the results of those debates could be catastrophic if the truth loses.

“Show me a nation with a science-hostile government, and I’ll show you a society with failing health, wealth, & security,” tweeted Neil deGrasse Tyson, an well-known American astrophysicist who is director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.


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